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Another World Under the Microscope

By Christy Su
Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 20, 2011 Last Updated: September 18, 2012
Related articles: Science » Inspiring Discoveries
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A selection of sand grains. (Gary Greenberg)

A selection of sand grains. (Gary Greenberg)

Envision a tiny grain of sand, so small one would dismiss it without a second thought. Saying that there is another depth of beauty in something so small is unheard of before. However, Dr. Gary Greenberg of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy dares to explore the unimaginable.

Combining science and art into one, Greenberg unveils never-seen microscopic views of objects like grains of sand, flowers, and food. Dedicated to his work, not only does he invent 3D microscopes and produce photos, but he also holds lectures, writes books, and opens exhibits for viewers to indulge in his wonderful passion. We were able to get an on-line interview with Greenberg and learn more about his work.

The Epoch Times: How did you first decide to incorporate art and science?

Greenberg: At the age of 13, my dad brought me a beautiful stereo microscope, and at the same time, my grandfather bought me a two-volume copy of the complete notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Those two events changed my life, and it was clear to me that art and science should be combined because both are ways to explore nature and human condition.

The Epoch Times: What is your current project right now?

Greenberg: I am currently building a new generation of 3D digital microscopes. These microscopes will be available for sale in 2012 under the trademark Edge-3D. My current research is to study moon sand in 3D from all the Apollo Mission landings.

A small capillary in the lung full of red blood cells seen in orange. The dark blue spaces are air sacs. The walls of these tiny sacs (alveoli) carry red blood cells close to the oxygen rich air sacs, which is where the red blood cells pick up oxygen and (Gary Greenberg)

A small capillary in the lung full of red blood cells seen in orange. The dark blue spaces are air sacs. The walls of these tiny sacs (alveoli) carry red blood cells close to the oxygen rich air sacs, which is where the red blood cells pick up oxygen and (Gary Greenberg)

The Epoch Times: What are the reactions of audiences when they see your work?

Greenberg : Almost everyone who sees my work is taken by the beauty of the natural world. I am able to show them things they would never be able to even imagine. People tell me that seeing images makes them more aware of the hidden aspects of life. The secrets of life are everywhere, but they are hidden until they are discovered. I am happy I am able to help people discover the magnificence of our world.

The Epoch Times: Where does your project inspiration come from?

Greenberg: For me, Nature is endlessly praiseworthy. I am continually inspired by the desire to discover new things and show them to others.

The Epoch Times: What is the highest magnification you have used? And which art piece did you use it on?

Greenberg: The magnification limit of my microscopes is about 1,500 times actual size; however, most of my images of sand, flowers, and food range from 100 times to 300 times. However, when I investigate cells from the body, such are brains cells or cells of the immune system, then I use magnifications of 400 times to 1,000 times.

The Epoch Times: Which art piece do you value the most and why?

Greenberg: That is too difficult a decision to make.

Continued: The process of creating a piece of microscope art

Sugar crystallizing out of a solution of sugar water. (Gary Greenberg)

Sugar crystallizing out of a solution of sugar water. (Gary Greenberg)

The Epoch Times: Can you describe the process and work involved in creating one piece of art?

I invented and built the 3D microscopes that I use. My company, Edge-3D, has been developing and building high-definition 3D microscopes since 1990. There are many factors that go into making a compelling photograph through the microscope. The quality of the lens, the lighting, the camera, and the type of microscope all make a big difference. Microscopic photographs of three-dimensional objects are difficult to produce because light microscopes have very shallow depth of focus. In other words, the camera can only see a thin section of the object in-focus, with the foreground and background being out-of-focus. I overcome this limitation by photographing a series of images taken at different focus levels.

To produce a fully-focused image, a computer program analyzes each image in the series, selecting the in-focus portions, and discarding the out-of-focus portions of each image in the series. All of the in-focus portions are then seamlessly combined into a single image that is sharply focused from foreground to background. The result of all this technology is a dramatic, more three-dimensional representation of the object

The Epoch Times: What magnification do you use to see the sand particles?

Greenberg: Most of my images of sand are about 150 times actual size. If you go closer than that, then you lose the feeling that it is a grain of sand that you are looking at.

The Epoch Times: So after viewing these different items at higher magnification and seeing them at smaller sizes, do you think there is a limit to how small you can see? Take a grain of sand for example. If you break the sand particle smaller and smaller while increasing the magnification, do you think there is a limit to the different forms of it you can see if technology was not a limit?

Greenberg: Modern microscopes are so powerful, they can zoom into a single atom. These types of microscopes can magnify objects about a hundred million times actual size. As you might imagine, a single grain of sand could look very different, depending on the magnification and the type of microscope used to see it

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